I’m an avid cruiser and I love to get away for weeks at a time, sailing open seas and discovering new-to-me destinations. Yet even a little getaway can be amazing and a weekend cruise can be just the answer for escaping the norm and inhaling that soothing ocean breeze. Short on time off from work? Set sail from Long Beach CA for a refreshing weekend cruise to Ensenada and back.
On my own recent voyage, I sailed with Carnival Inspiration for a Friday-Monday sailing. That provided three nights with one full at-sea day and one full day to explore Ensenada. The Inspiration was the perfect sized ship for a long weekend getaway, as there was plenty to do and eat while also not feeling overwhelmed. My stateroom was a quick few minutes to the theater and casino, and just as easy for accessing all the fabulous food on board.
The Grand Atrium is both a gathering place and a party venue. Each night, I loved strolling through to see what music was being featured while guests joined the dance floor. Yet on beautiful sunny days, I also found the pool deck full with music and entertainment, dance challenges, and drink specials. Admittedly, the pool deck was probably my most frequented destination on the ship, as the water temperature was perfect for cooling off under the sunshine. For kids (and kids at heart, like me) there’s also Carnival WaterWorks in a separate family-friendly area where guests can swoosh down curvy waterslides, or younger kids can splash away in child-friendly water features. Traveling without kids? Definitely take advantage of the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat where the vibe is chill and you’ll catch sun rays in a quiet environment.
Whether you want to up your game on the mini-putt golf course or place a bet in the casino, there are activities suited for all on Inspiration. You’ll find song and dance with Playlist Productions, family fun with Seuss at Sea, along with all sorts of interactive activities on the main stage. But, no worries if you’d rather just kick back and relax. There are plenty of quiet nooks to hang out with a book and tasty go-cup from Coffee Bar.
When hunger strikes, your options seem endless on Carnival Inspiration. In addition to the Lido Restaurant buffet offering a variety for all tastes, I particularly enjoyed BlueIguana Cantina for fresh-made tacos and burritos… and—my personal favorite—Guy’s Burger Joint, with juicy made to order burgers with the celebrity chef Guy Fieri stamp of approval. Looking for a more traditional dining experience? Take a seat in The Dining Room for an elegant night out included in the cruise fare.
Foodies will find even more to celebrate once you reach Ensenada. My personal favorite eatery in town is the must-try Makuko’s Fish Tacos, a short walk south from the cruise ship. I loved the fresh ingredients and casual atmosphere. After a requisite stop for caffeine at Starbucks, dip back down to the Turistico waterfront to sample freshly made warm churros. The marina waterfront is also where you’ll find all sorts of excursion boats for those in search of added adventure. This focal point is also a great spot for perusing souvenir and craft vendors, so you can seek out unique gifts to take home.
Depending on when you visit Ensenada, you may also be able to experience one of the many area festivals taking place downtown and near the waterfront. From Carnaval to beach volleyball tournaments, to chili cook-offs and an annual Paella Fair, you’ll find plenty of celebrations taking place year-round. The Visit Mexico tourism website offers additional information on events and activities.
No matter the time of year, you’ll find great deals on Carnival’s weekend cruises. My sailing was the perfect getaway for a little relaxation by the pool combined with a great day in Ensenada.
Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer.
Photography by CT Shier.